A lot of thinking can be done when you’re alone. When I wasn’t learning from the girls, spending time with the kids, or making sure everything was ready for Roy when he came home at night, I was home, formulating my exit strategy.
During the winter months, as I sat with piano keys tolling out beneath my fingertips, I watched my life play out before me. I could catch myself on the porch swing with a cigarette, wondering about those things I didn’t want and figuring out how to create the things I desired. During the summer, I caught myself authoring possible scenes while digging my fingers into the garden soil. Every moment of solitude had me one step closer to the plan.
I would save extra money from our household allowance. I would sell my drawings for a tiny sum, and every bit brought me one step closer to being able to break it down for Roy. He’d understand. There’s no way he couldn’t get it. He knew my love for Harold. He knew my soul was tied to someone he wasn’t. He wouldn’t be left alone parenting Seliah this time.
It could be such a pleasant break.
And on one of those beautiful moments of introspection, a time when I was watching the seasons change from winter to spring right in front of my eyes, the sun shone down and I had this surrendering inside that made it so clear to me. As I sat on the porch swing, smoking a cigarette and contemplating all the places I had been so far, and all of the places I would eventually end up, I know I was doing exactly what I was meant to do. I was paying my tribute to the man who brought me here, who gave me our daughter, who showed me how to live in this foreign land. Roy had been so compassionate to me. He was exactly who I needed to be with when I had hit rock bottom with the drugs and alcohol. He was my safety net.
And now that I was doing so well, I knew it was finally time for me to move on to the next chapter. I would be rewarded for finally growing up. Lamar Kevin would meet his real father and Roy and I could raise the kids in two separate homes, and they would have twice as much family to love them.
It was like paying penance in the Catholic church, only instead of being driven by guilt and fear, I felt so alive and clear. This life was meant to be beautiful, to be absolutely magnificent, and I was going to end up with the man whose soul I was bound to.
The gods would grant us this.
Peace wrapped itself around me. I was overjoyed and overwhelmed and leaned my head back to savor this taste of ecstasy. I would be with Harold again someday soon and every little thing was exactly as it should be. There was so much confidence inside I was sure this was how it felt to be catapulted across the universe.
LETTER FROM MAGGIE TO TONI
I feel like I know you, and I even think I like you on some level. I’ve heard so many stories and have done everything he’s asked me to so he doesn’t feel so lost without you. That he loved you, I am absolutely certain. You were the best thing that happened to Harold, until me.
I know this comes out of the blue, and I’m sorry for that. I don’t think you’ve had any communication with my husband since you left with the baby. Because I know he will never tell you, I thought it appropriate to be fully honest with you. He and I married the spring after you left, maybe four months after you went back to Roy. Harold has been so broken without you and I’ve done everything I can to help him heal. I know it must have hurt you, too, and that’s why I’m telling you all of this. True love like that can carry on for the rest of your life.
But I love this man with every ounce of my heart and I promise you I have done and will do anything to make him happy.
I’ve been trying to have children so that he doesn’t feel like there’s such a huge gaping hole in his heart without you and your baby. He won’t admit it outright, but I can see how he looks at infants and young children and it’s almost like he is searching for some sort of familiarity or recognition in them. Like he’s hoping to one day come across a stranger’s child and see that it is his after all. Please send me good thoughts as I pray that now, finally, he’ll find a sort of closure being able to have his own child with him every day. I am pregnant, and if I have done my calculations right, we should give birth in May. Please be as overjoyed about this news as we are.
You have been such an important person in his life all these years. I’m certain he’ll always hold the memory of you very close to his heart, and I’m sure you feel the same about him. I assure you, I am not jealous of you and instead delight in knowing that both you and Harold had an unspeakably beautiful experience loving each other – because love really is the most joyful feeling a person can have. I want you to know that I’m taking very good care of him now.
Please don’t be angry with this letter, Toni. You are very special woman and I think you do understand what it means to give a man the invaluable gift of being a good wife and mother to his children. May you feel comfort knowing that the man you left behind is no longer suffering.
My kindest regards to you and your family,